Thinking Out Loud

November 1, 2014

End of the Line for Mars Hill

The headline at Christianity Today said it all:

Mars Hill LocationsHere’s reaction from people you know, along with random comments from people you don’t on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that were posted in the hours immediately following the announcement:

Zach Hoag: In my opinion, this was the only right decision for a church organization with such a troubled history. It will allow for a truly new start, free from the arrogant defense of the old institution, and for the deep healing process to commence. 

Stephan Deliramich: This is crazy and sad. I appreciate Driscoll and have mixed feelings about his resignation, however this is such a lesson to all of us. A church cannot be built around one person unless that person is Jesus.

Warren Throckmorton: If anything has become clear over the last year, it is that the church was all about buildings and organization.

Rachel Held Evans: My heart breaks for those brothers and sisters from Seattle feeling wounded, exhausted, and disillusioned by the unraveling of their church. Even unhealthy churches have faithful, godly people working in them. I hope everyone will take the time they need to heal after this, and that the relationships that were truly life-giving will be preserved. Unfortunately, churches built around a pastor tend to rise and fall with that pastor. I hope the entire evangelical community will learn from this and re-prioritize accountability, character, respect for women and the marginalized, and I sincerely hope Mark Driscoll finds the help he needs…

Christopher Preston: Sad… But not so surprising… The pitfalls of building a church on personality rather than Christ?

Jim West: This is the major theological problem with megachurches: they have no idea what missionary minded churches are.  They do not distribute, they collect.  Rather than planting churches in various locations, they collect people like property and then boast of their multiple campuses and tens of thousands of members.  If megachurches understood Christianity they would plant churches and not establish satellites.  But whenever wealth comes the way of the greedy and controlling, it is only natural that they try to get as much of it as they can.  That is why Mars Hill has died: greed killed it. 

John Paul Ortiz: I’m actually sad to hear of Mars Hill’s demise. For all the people who now have to go church hopping, people now unemployed, hurt. etc.

Jacey Davidson: The mega-church/multi-site model is unsustainable as is it built upon certain gifted individuals that can’t help but assume inappropriate amounts of power and influence. God’s church is all about decentralization. The priesthood of all believers is a critical reformation doctrine. Multi-site is a relatively new invention of man and doesn’t seem to fit the biblical model of church government. It is pseudo-Presbyterian but lacks the proper accountability channels. 

Multisite Church SaleMatthew Wagner: Pray for Mars Hill and the 14000 Christians that called it home. Sad to see the church closing its doors. 

Spiritual Sounding Board: I’ve seen discussion [about] new “Mars Hill” churches. If these pastors failed to stand up to Driscoll and say he was unfit, they are unfit to lead. 

Drew Fanning: [referencing CT headline above] Describing a church as a human’s possession and using words like “empire” will have a terrible impact on Mars Hill’s congregation. We as christian contributors to social media, news, and even culture have to be so careful how we use any terminology. And more so than worry about the buildings Mars Hill owned, we should be worrying about the people that filled them.

Wenatchee The Hatchet:  In ten years Mark Driscoll managed to become pretty much everything he preached against from the pulpit circa 2000-2004.  How and why this happened may be explored and unpacked later on.  Whether the individual churches that have been constituents of Mars Hill can survive remains to be seen.  A number of them may and we’ll just have to see.  

Brian Shepard: Sucks hearing that Mars Hill Church is officially done.. but will be praying that from this ending, this moment also marks a new beginning. 

Bill Kinnon: If you need to shut it down mere weeks after the “founder” quits, was it ever really a church at all?

John Piper: Mars Hill Church will cease to be a single multisite church. May each congregation flourish in Christ!  

Click the image at the top of the article to read the details at Christianity Today.

 

October 27, 2014

Religious Persecution in America: The Gay Wedding Trap

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:33 pm

Whether it involves a wedding cake, printed invitations, or floral arrangements, everyone has heard a story involving a principled store owner who refused to do work for a gay wedding. But this story has a few twists. First, the proprietor, Barronelle Stutzman, had in fact done work for the couple previously; she was simply uncomfortable with doing the flowers for the actual wedding. Second, the couple didn’t file the complaint; if I understand correctly the state’s Attorney General heard about the situation on social media and filed its own charges.*

This video was produced in March by ADV, Alliance Defending Freedom. It’s newsworthy today after being shown hours ago in Nashville at a conference of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, where the owner of the flower store then greeted attendees in person.


*I hope I got that right; as a Canadian I don’t always get the nuances of U.S. law, but clearly there wasn’t the normal “plaintiff” that you usually find in stories like this.

October 23, 2014

When The War Came to Canada

Members of Parliament barricade the doors to the House of Commons - October 22, 2014; CTV Twitter

Members of Parliament barricade the doors to a caucus chamber – October 22, 2014; CTV Twitter


Exclusive report from someone locked in on the lock-down

Different things impact different readers in different degrees, but after 9/11, there was a newspaper which on its front page story used the headline “When War Came to America.”  I’ve tried to find a screenshot of it unsuccessfully, but I was reminded of it yesterday when the shootings in and nearby Canada’s Parliament Hill combined with events that took place earlier in Quebec this week which would seem to lend credence to the idea that war has indeed come to Canada.

Unlike Spain or England or the US, Canada has so far escaped the terrorism associated with fringe militant groups based in the middle east. Perhaps that has changed or is about to change. As CBC newscaster Peter Mansbridge said yesterday, “While there have been incidents, you have to go back [to 1970]… to see a situation where there have been lock-downs… this is a story unprecedented [in Canada] in recent times.” On Wednesday, that certainly changed.

As a friend emailed, it was just a matter of time until U.S.-style news headlines reached Canada; until our news reports started to look like that those of our neighbors to the south. 

As the day wore on I contacted another friend, Lorne Anderson, only to find that he was locked down as we corresponded.  We asked him for his perspective and his response at suppertime last night reminds us of the priorities you face when you find yourself in the middle of such a situation.

I am writing this from behind locked doors in an office in the Parliament Hill precinct. More than six hours ago a gunman killed a soldier at the National War Memorial; then he or someone else broke into the Hall of Honour in Parliament Hill’s Centre Block where he was killed just metres away from the rooms where the Government and Opposition MPs were holding their weekly caucus meeting.

At this point we don’t know anything about the gunmen, how many there were, what motivated their attack. We don’t even know when they will unlock the doors and let us out – police are concerned there may be more shooters out there.

What we do know is that this will change security procedures on Parliament Hill, and our open seat of government is likely to be a lot less open to the public in the future, and that is a shame.

I suspect that for many Members of Parliament this incident, no matter what the cause is eventually determined to be, will bring about a time of personal reflection on their own mortality. I have seen the video clips on television. Only a door separated our political leaders from the gunman. There is no doubt the death toll could have been much higher, that a much greater tragedy (numerically) was narrowly averted.

I would think that such a close call would lead to a certain amount of introspection, a questioning of priorities on those who were in the rooms on either side of that hall. When you start asking “what if” you need to take it to the logical conclusion. “What if I had been shot?” What if I had died? What would happen to me then?”

The Christians in the room already know the answer to those questions. I hope the other MPs take the time to find out, because you really never do know when you will be facing your own mortality, which makes it always a good idea to know what you are going to say when you meet your maker.

Read more from Lorne here and here

Canada Parliament October 22 2014 CNN Website

Canada in the news: CNN Website 2:00 PM EST Wednesday

Tweeted Thursday by The Globe and Mail

Tweeted Thursday by The Globe and Mail

October 20, 2014

The Fright Industry

Filed under: Church, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:41 am

pumpkin-carving

They appeared just after Labor Day.  Pop-up retail stores in strip malls and indoor centers dedicated wholly to the evening of October 31st.

Pop-up retail is not for the faint of heart. It involves a certain amount of portability in terms of inventory and fixtures, but you’re still installing cash registers and point of sale terminals, hiring staff and presumably obtaining liability insurance; all with a less than 60-day sales window.

In the U.S. and Canada, there is now big money in Halloween. It doubled between 2005 and 2011 in a way that other holidays did not. But numbers vary with each survey. A Forbes survey had it fourth, but had Thanksgiving second — food, no doubt being factored in — while a National Retail Federation survey for the same time period didn’t mention Thanksgiving at all, but listed “Winter Holidays” followed by Mother’s Day, Valentines Day and Easter.  A more recent NRF study had October 31st dead last, by a large margin, and trailing — any guesses? — the Super Bowl.

It eclipses Christmas for many families and neighborhoods in terms of decoration and the participation of children.  This year, having the holiday on a Friday night means some people may buy two costumes for two weekend parties.

Even within the broader Church, there are people who are totally unaware of All Saints Day, the feast day that follows on November 1st.  But in some conservative quarters, and also some not-so-conservative Evangelicals, an anti-Halloween movement started perhaps 20 years ago.  On this topic, I wrote:

…Of all the things that we could NOT do when I was younger — card playing, Sunday shopping, dancing, etc. that we now CAN DO; it’s interesting that there is this one unique area where we COULD do something years ago that now Evangelicals feel we can NOT do…

Taking my kids out trick-or-treating when they were younger was something that I sometimes I had to do rather low-key, as the winds of change among my church community were already blowing.

But this year, for the second time, we’re probably skipping participation in terms of handing out goodies as well. Our neighborhood has grown up somewhat; or perhaps we’re reacting to the mega-industry Oct. 31st has become and are simply trying to maintain a distinct identity.  


 

Redeeming the holiday: A preaching series tied to Halloween.

 

 

 

October 15, 2014

Mark Driscoll Resigns

Filed under: current events — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:19 pm

Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

From Huffington Post to Christianity Today, the story of Mark Driscoll’s resignation as pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle was becoming fairly common knowledge by Wednesday afternoon. Religion News Service (RNS) reported:

Mark Driscoll, the larger-than-life megachurch pastor who has been accused of plagiarism, bullying and an unhealthy ego that alienated his most devoted followers, resigned from his Seattle church Tuesday (Oct. 14), according to a document obtained by RNS.

..continue reading here..

Elsewhere on their site, RNS included the full text of the resignation letter:

By God’s grace I have pastored Mars Hill Church for 18 years. Today, also by God’s grace, and with the full support of my wife Grace, I resign my position as a pastor and elder of Mars Hill. I do so with profound sadness, but also with complete peace…

…I readily acknowledge I am an imperfect messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many things I have confessed and repented of, privately and publicly, as you are well aware. Specifically, I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit…

…Prior to and during this process there have been no charges of criminal activity, immorality or heresy, any of which could clearly be grounds for disqualification from pastoral ministry. Other issues, such as aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context, and I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church’s mission to lead people to a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ…

read the full text here

With respect to his role as a Christian author, the story began with charges of plagiarism earlier in the year which ended with the LifeWay chain banning his books completely, but this issue led to a host of other allegations concerning the management of the Seattle multi-site churches.

For many years a leading voice among the “Young, Restless and Reformed” movement, Driscoll had books published with Tyndale, Crossway, Zondervan and Thomas Nelson.  He is a co-founder of the Acts 29 network of New Calvinism churches as well as The Gospel Coalition. At its peak Mars Hill had 15 branches in five states with total attendance of 13,000.

A Wikipedia page devoted to him gives much space to the controversies which began around 2012 but seemed to increase exponentially into 2014. 

What will Mark do now? He is only 43 years old, like the rest of us, much of his story has yet to be written.

September 13, 2014

Forthcoming: The Rise of ISIS by Jay Sekulow

Filed under: books, current events — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:31 am

Rise of ISISJay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has written a 128-page book that answers many of the questions you may have about what’s going on in the Mid-East. The book is being published by Howard Publishing on October 14th in both print and eBook. Here’s the publisher blurb:

Jay Sekulow, one of America’s most influential attorneys, closely examines the rise of the terrorist groups ISIS and Hamas, explains their objectives and capabilities and how, if left undefeated, their existence could unleash a genocide of historic proportions.

Recently, the world has been shaken by gruesome photos and videos that have introduced us to the now infamous terrorist group known as ISIS. A small but well-financed group, ISIS originated within Al Qaeda with the goal of creating an Islamic state across Iraq and Syria and unrelenting jihad on Christians. Separate from ISIS, the terrorist group Hamas has waged an equally brutal war against Israel. Both groups, if left undefeated, have the potential to unleash a catastrophic genocide.

Rise of ISIS gives a better understanding of the modern face of terror, and provides an overview of the laws of war and war crimes. These laws differentiate between the guilty and innocent, and explain why the US military and the Israeli Defense Forces are often limited in their defensive measures.

A must-have for anyone who wants to better understand the conflict that exists in the middle east, this well-researched and fully annotated volume is invaluable in revealing how this new brand of terrorism poses a very real threat to Americans and the world at large. It also serves as a guide to what we as individuals—and as a nation—can do to stop this escalating violence, prevent jihad, and protect Israel and America from this imminent threat.

August 21, 2014

Sidebar to the Kent Brantly Story

Filed under: current events, missions — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:25 am

A part of the story you may not have heard…

Kent Brantley

Breaking Christian News adapted this story from Assist News Service, but made the headline something that Assist had buried in the final two paragraphs:

The website stated that The JPS Foundation is now accepting donations for Brantly and his family, who lost all of their earthly possessions when he contracted the Ebola virus and was returned to the United States for treatment. After his symptoms appeared, Brantly was isolated and was never able to return to their home. According to JPS, everything is considered contaminated by Ebola and will be destroyed.

“No date has been announced for his release from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, but when he is well enough to join his family, they will face the challenge of replacing everything from household items and clothing to computers and children’s toys,” said JPS in a statement Friday. “All funds will be held in a separate account within the JPS Foundation for the financial support of Dr. Brantly and his family during his recovery.

After all they’ve been through, they face the same loss as would a family whose home was destroyed by fire. But better to have Kent alive, right? 


Related:  

“I’m sorry I’ve got to take this call, it’s Kent Brantly.”

This article is a must-read. It puts Kent Brantly in perspective in a way that will challenge you to the core.  Click to read Scot McKnight’s article:
Kent Brantly: Every Now and Then a Disciple Breaks Out

August 8, 2014

Dear Mark Driscoll

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:25 am

Out of all the rhetoric bouncing around online this week about Mark Driscoll, Ron Wheeler, part of the Mars Hill story from early days, is probably the most poignant. Two-thirds of the way through, it builds to this crescendo:

You can’t preach Jesus and curse people.

You can’t preach Jesus and threaten people.

You can’t preach Jesus and be sexually vulgar.

You can’t preach Jesus and denigrate women.

You can’t preach Jesus and then shun people.

You can’t preach Jesus and give rich people special privileges.

You can’t preach Jesus and steal people’s material

You can’t preach Jesus and cheat your way onto bestseller lists.

You can’t preach Jesus and then force your people to not compete with you in spreading the gospel.

You can’t preach Jesus and then force people to either stay silent or not be paid.

You can’t preach Jesus and seek to become the “greatest of these”.

You just can’t. You see that right?

This is not the only voice asking for Mark’s resignation. There are many. If Mark Driscoll has any other options at this point, I can’t imagine what they are.

Read the whole letter, posted here.

UPDATE (August 8; 11:50 AM) — via Warren Throckmorton: “In a stunning move, the Acts 29 Network leadership has removed network co-founder and Mars Hill Church lead pastor Mark Driscoll from the organization’s membership…”  Click here to read.   Sample of the Acts 29 letter:

…Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming. We now have to take another course of action.

Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help. Consequently, we also feel that we have no alternative but to remove you and Mars Hill from membership in Acts 29. Because you are the founder of Acts 29 and a member, we are naturally associated with you and feel that this association discredits the network and is a major distraction.

We tell you this out of love for you, Mars Hill, Acts 29, and most significantly, the cause of Christ, and we would be irresponsible and deeply unloving not to do so in a clear and unequivocal manner…

 

August 4, 2014

Remembering Braxton Caner

Braxton CanerThe death of Braxton Caner, the 15-year old son of Baptist writer Ergun Caner has haunted me all weekend. I’ve followed various internet rabbit trails trying to extract some meaning from his sudden, untimely death, apparently at his own hand. Why?

From the obituary:

…Braxton loved three things: God, his family and sports. When he got to Texas, he added four things to that list: Football, his friends, weight training, and Hannah Spencer. Braxton only loved one girl in his whole life — He and Hannah were inseparable for these last two years, and reflected a godly love far beyond their respective ages… Before he died, Braxton began researching collegiate programs in sports fitness and kinesiology, and wanted to become a sports trainer. Braxton only lived 15 years and four months, but he did more in his brief life than many people do in a lifetime. He traveled with his parents, visiting 41 states. He attended over fifty weeks of church camp in his life, on every major ocean. He learned to surf in Hawaii, escaped a moose in Alaska, got chased out of Canada, helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, and ducked out of the way of a lion in the Serengeti. He got to help do a chapel for his beloved New England Patriots and learned to drive his F150 pickup truck on dirt roads of Texas. Braxton’s faith in Christ was also reflected in his life: He was the best big brother to Drake, led his cousin to Jesus shortly after his own salvation, and was a positive role in the lives of many others. He traveled around the world on eight mission trips, including Kenya twice, Tanzania, Israel, Mexico, the Bahamas, England and Wales…

While there has been speculation as to what propelled Braxton to this action, I think this is one of the news stories that will only become clearer with time. His father is not without controversy, and some have noted* that Braxton was being bullied on his Twitter account by enemies of Ergun Caner. He left no note…

I leave the comment section open to anyone else who has followed this story and wishes to add their insights; please be respectful… 

*UpdateTuesday, August 5th, 10:30 PM EST: The investigative website The Wartburg Watch thoroughly chronicles the role that certain people would appear to have played in Braxton’s sudden death. Writer Darlene Parsons begins, “This is one of the hardest posts I have ever written;” and many gut-wrenching paragraphs later, concludes, “Things have gone way too far.” To read that article click here.


News search results from last week:

Evangelicals Grieve as Braxton Caner, 15-YO Son of Christian

Christian Post-Jul 30, 2014

July 31, 2014

Picketing a Place of Worship

A bunch of people plan to carry signs in a demonstration outside a Belleville, Washington church on Sunday morning. That’s hardly news. Heck, Fred Phelps was doing that for years.

But there’s more at stake with this one. The little protest has already garnered some mainstream media interest, and it hasn’t even happened yet.

The whys and hows of this story are complicated, and unless you’ve been following this for some time, it’s rather hard to catch you up. Suffice it to say that the volcano involving Mars Hill, the church co-founded and led by Mark Driscoll has been waiting to erupt for several years, though really the church culture is causing something more resembling imploding than exploding.

Social media has played a major role in getting the story told. I’m fairly certain Jesus didn’t have blogging in mind when he said this, but even if the context is different, the words, as Luke records them, certainly fit: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. (12:2,3)

Mark Driscoll - Not many of you should be teachersOne blogger has suggested that Driscoll really only has two options, to really repent (i.e. not the repentance seen in a recent half hour video) or to resign. Perhaps. He could also wait; i.e. try to ride out the storm.

With all the Christian movie-making that’s been happening lately, I would be very surprised if a movie about Driscoll’s life to date is not already in the works.

The point I want to make here is that that this Sunday a small protest will take place in the upper left corner of the U.S., but it is one that has repercussions in a much larger arena. Whatever single issue the demonstrators think it’s about, it raises visibility on so many other issues about Driscoll and Mars Hill.

It’s about church structure, secrecy, accountability, finances, hiring, firings, spiritual abuse, and how each of these things impacted the lives of countless families over the years. It’s about the overtones of everything from the role of women, to plagiarism, to how the authority structure in some Calvinist settings mitigates against truth and transparency.

Like I said, it’s the stuff that movies are made of, though perhaps only those who are ecclesiology nerds or theology nerds would buy the tickets.

But it impacts your church, and my church, and the church our children will inherit.

 

Older Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.